I bought WesternOne (WEQ) – and wrote about it here - because it’s a profitable, well-managed business that’s growing the top and bottom lines and has a healthy 8%-plus dividend yield. It’s a “pickaxe company” with exposure through Britco and its equipment-rental business to many sectors of the economy, from energy and mining to infrastructure and the film business.
WesternOne featured in World of Mining in late August when CEO Darren Latoski bought more shares and again just last week when longtime Conservative politician Stockwell Day joined the board of directors.
Then came Monday’s shocking news that Latoski – the architect of much of WesternOne’s success – was dead. My first thoughts went to the family of this high-performing business executive, who was just 44 and seemed to pack a lot into those years on this Earth. The company’s news release spoke of his “valiant battle with cancer” and my fascination with capital markets and stock price gyrations was abruptly put into perspective.
I had not met Latoski, but my impression from listening to him speak on some of the company’s conference calls was of a high-energy, smart visionary. Driven. Naturally, as a shareholder, I wondered how his death would affect company operations. According to the news release, WesternOne chairman Robert King has been appointed acting CEO “in accordance with the Board’s succession plan” while the hunt for a replacement gets underway.
Latoski, who held an MBA from Simon Fraser University, and his business partner Steve Evans also ran two real estate investment trusts – Pure Multi-Family REIT (RUF, where Latoski was executive chairman) and Pure Industrial RET (AAR, where he was co-CEO). Latoski was also a principal of Sunstone Realty Advisors. In a Business in Vancouver feature highlighting PIRET’s growth – 2,000% over 5 years, Latoski talked about the importance of trust and relationships to sustainable business. “You do what you say and you say what you do.”
Latoski owned, directly and indirectly, more than 1.9 million WesternOne shares, an 8% stake worth more than $13 million.
Business in Vancouver:Darren Latoski passes away at 44 years old
Disclosure: I own shares of WesternOne. This is not investment advice.